With its calm, quaint feel, meandering streets, glittering temples, smiling locals and lush surrounding hills, Luang Prabang is one of Asia's most alluring locales and an absolutely essential Laos travel destination.
With its calm, quaint feel, meandering streets, glittering temples, smiling locals and lush surrounding hills, Luang Prabang is one of Asia's most alluring locales and an absolutely essential Laos travel destination. Its small scale and intimate feel make it a perfect place to wander-from temples to handicraft shops, from the banks of the Mekong to a charming fountain-side café.
French colonial, art-deco and northern Lanna Thai structures comprise an exquisite and well-preserved architectural legacy: the town itself has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Outstanding temple architecture abounds, and stumbling upon a small shrine tucked away in an alley is one of the joys of this town. The most imposing temples are Wat Wisounalat, Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, and Wat Xieng Thong, an exquisite 400-year-old royal monastery complex. Be sure to visit the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum. The Lao royal family lived here until 1975. Its collection includes lovely murals-in shimmering mosaics and in oil-of Lao life, and gifts from heads of state, including a moon rock from Richard Nixon, given in 1972 (ironically about the same time U.S. bombing of Laos reached its peak).
For a truly extraordinary Laos travel experience, rise before dawn for a chance to witness a moving ritual that embodies the essence of Old Southeast Asia: as long lines of barefoot monks walk silently along the streets on their morning alms rounds, watch locals offer alms. This represents a symbiosis in which rice sustains the monks' bodies, while the monks' prayers nourish the spirit of those giving the rice.
Note: please observe a respectful distance and silence while witnessing this ancient, sacred ceremony.
After a day of exploring, ascend the steps up Phu Si Hill to view the sunset over the Mekong. After dinner, wander through the bustling Night Market.